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San Diego School Board Member Outlines Teacher Paycut Proposal

Aired 11/16/11 on KPBS News.

A school trustee wants to slash employee pay under a plan to save the district from insolvency.

— San Diego city schools are facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million next year. Schools Trustee Scott Barnett released the details of a plan to save the district millions Tuesday.

The plan detailed by Scott Barnett calls for across-the-board paycuts on a sliding scale. The scale would include a 5.75-percent cut for most teachers and a 12.75-percent cut for top administrators, after currently scheduled raises are figured in.

Full-time employees, from clerks to custodians, also would be affected. Those earning $40,000 or less would take a 4-percent cut from what their salaries would be once five furlough days were restored. Those earning more than $160,000 would see their post-furlough salaries go down 15 percent.

Barnett first released a plan to cut the district budget at the end of October. It included a 10 percent salary cut for district employees earning more than $25,000 a year, and a requirement that they pay contributions for anything more than the district’s basic health coverage.

Barnett said he thinks staff will be more supportive of his proposal now that the details are spelled out.

“A lot of people said ‘Hey, I’m concerned about this’ – for good reason," he said. "Ten percent is going to hurt. So what we wanted to do is to say – 'OK, you can now look at this chart and under this proposal, if you know that if you earn within this range that that will actually be your net cut.'"

The plan would also restore five furlough days to the school year and include some scheduled raises that would go into effect before these new cuts were made.

Barnett said the plan would save the district $70 million a year for three years, while avoiding layoffs or class size increases.

Other board members, the superintendent and district employee union leaders have said the trustees should wait to see whether the state makes mid-year budget cuts before making any cuts. Barnett said waiting isn't realistic.

“The superintendent’s proposal to deal with even the best case scenario includes selling land, it includes keeping the school year at 175 days instead of 180," he said. "It includes potential for significant – hundreds – of layoffs. We can’t afford to wait.”

He'll present the proposal to the Board of Education Nov. 29. He would have to get the support of at least two other board members, and it isn’t clear he will.

There are several other hurdles to Barnett's plan going into effect. First, the district would have to open contract negotiations with the five employee unions. Four of those unions refused to do so last year. Second, his plan also calls for a parcel tax increase on the 2012 ballot that would restore the proposed salary cuts, but San Diego voters rejected a parcel tax for schools just last year.

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